Speaking out at Hiphopland, the Israel Festival opening event
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First there was the word

Speaking out at Hiphopland, the Israel Festival opening event

Rappers, poets and hip-hop artists unite in an evening dedicated to identity, in the gritty surroundings of Jerusalem's Talpiot neighborhood

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

Massive murals amid the gritty urban landscape of Jerusalem's Talpiot industrial zone formed the background for Hiphopland, an opening event for Israel Festival 2018 (Courtesy Jessica Steinberg)
Massive murals amid the gritty urban landscape of Jerusalem's Talpiot industrial zone formed the background for Hiphopland, an opening event for Israel Festival 2018 (Courtesy Jessica Steinberg)

In the cool Jerusalem evening air, in a gritty Talpiot parking lot usually surrounded by furniture upholsterers, woodworking shops and car garages, scores of teenagers (and some adults) gathered for a taste of local hip hop culture, the opening event of Israel Festival 2018.

Called Hiphopland, the evening of poetry, rap and hip hop revolved around Israel’s 70th and the country’s Declaration of Independence, as the various artists spoke, sang and talked about their identities and that of the country they live in.

Members of the Incubator Theater’s label Bedibur took their turns on the temporary stage for the first part of the evening, offering their takes on what it means to be Israeli.

They sang about Jerusalem (it’s not Tel Aviv), teasing out its character to the crowd of mostly locals, mentioning Mahane Yehuda and the Rose Garden, the importance of drinking locally made Shapira beer rather than Maccabi, and feeling annoyed about the weight of Shabbat observance while enjoying Friday afternoons in the city.

Hip-hop dancers led the crowd in a fast-paced, sweaty dance-off (Jessica Steinberg/Times of Israel)

There was a rap about being a Russian Israeli, “Mi ani? Ma ani?” (Who am I? What am I?) when born to Russian parents and raised in Israel. Similarly, the slam about feeling American, wanting to say, “Hey, man,” while coming from Israel, the land of ‘kibbutz galuyot,’ the ingathering of the exiles.

Yael Tal, one of the few female performers, poked holes in Israeli pride, bringing applause for lines like “No nation like this one” and then making fun of the crowd by telling us she was talking about Uzbekistan and its juicy apricots.

There were dance battles and duets led by the team of MCs, DJs and drummer Amir Brenet, followed by the second part of the evening, the main stage performance with Echo, Jimbo J, Nechi Nech, System Ali, Peled, Cafe Shahor Hazak, Karolina, Shaanan Street and Guy Mar.

The Israel Festival continues June 9, with the main opening show taking place Saturday night, May 26 at Sultan’s Pool and a performance by Dikla, Miri Mesika and Nasrin Kadri.

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